Doug Pederson Notes: Eagles' Replacements on DL, West Coast, Upcoming Draft

PHOENIX -- Doug Pederson, wearing a light blue golf shirt, walked up to the 10-seat round table full of Philadelphia reporters with a smile. 

He slowly sat down and waited. The breakfast and hour-long media session at the league's annual meetings was scheduled to begin at 8:15 a.m. at the Arizona Biltmore Hotel and he arrived at 8:13 and sat down at 8:14. 

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He took a peak at the notebook belonging to the reporter closest to him to see the word "Mixon" scribbled in pencil. Eventually, another reporter lobbed in a question about Alshon Jeffery, but Pederson wasn't ready yet.  

The Eagles' head coach, who hadn't spoken publicly since the last day of the Eagles' 2016 season, looked down at his watch with a smile; it still said 8:14. 

But eventually, that minute hand moved and the hour-long session began. Pederson, entrapped by reporters and fresh fruit, answered around 63 questions, ranging in topics from Carson Wentz, to the team's free agent pickups and this year's draft. 

We already got into the looming competition at left guard, Pederson's view on the new free agents and his thoughts on Wentz's offseason, but there was plenty more during the session. 

Let's clean out the notebook: 

The Replacements
This offseason, the Eagles lost two of their four starters on the defensive line. Bennie Logan left for Andy Reid and the Chiefs during free agency, and the Eagles cut Connor Barwin in a cap-saving move before Barwin latched on with the Los Angeles Rams. 

For a team that entered last season thinking its defensive line was its strength, losing two starters isn't easy.

On Wednesday morning, Pederson was asked about the two guys -- at least before the draft -- who appear to be their replacements. 

The obvious replacement for Barwin is Vinny Curry, who signed a $46.25 million deal last offseason and didn't live up to the contract during the 2016 season. Curry was pegged as a starter during the spring, but Brandon Graham simply outperformed him and earned a starting role, becoming the team's best pass-rusher last year. 

Curry, meanwhile, managed just 2.5 sacks while playing just 43 percent of the team's defensive snaps. 

The Eagles simply need more out of him in 2017. 

"I love Vinny," Pederson said. "He's a tremendous leader. He's good for our football team. We're excited to have him. With any player we have, though -- we're talking about Carson having a big year this year, and all of the guys. But Vinny's a guy that's going to come in and do what you ask him to do and compete. I think if you asked him, that's probably his focus, is to come in and be that guy, be the guy that sort of takes that next step. You want to see steps being made, that they're performing at a high level. From that standpoint, expect him to come in ready to go in April."

As for Logan's vacated position, Beau Allen seems like the likely candidate to replace him. In fact, the Eagles' previous work on a contract extension for the former seventh-round pick signaled the end of Logan in Philly. 

Allen ended up starting three games in Logan's absence last year and ultimately played 28 percent of the team's defensive snaps, while Logan played 46 percent. Pederson made sure to mention that DC Jim Schwartz utilizes an eight-man rotation on the line, but Allen will need to be a big part of that. 

"Obviously, with free agency and Bennie not being here, yeah it gives him an opportunity to step in there and really show what he can do, if he can be the guy and compete and handle that load," he said. 

Kendricks still around? 
As of Thursday morning, Mychal Kendricks was still on the Eagles' roster. It just seems unlikely that's going to be the case in a few months. The team has actively been trying to trade Kendricks and he might bring in a slight return because of his age and untapped potential. 

Pederson, for his part, said he expects Kendricks on the roster to start the season. 

"For sure," he said. "Mychal's a big part of the team and I expect him there."

Until he isn't. 

A week out West? 
The 2017 NFL schedule hasn't yet been released -- that's likely to come in late April -- but we already know the Eagles' home and road opponents. And three of their road games happen way out west -- twice in Los Angeles against the Rams and Chargers and once in Seattle against the Seahawks. 

Because cross-country travel can be a pain, Pederson said the team has requested to have two of its West Coast games in back-to-back weeks so the team could stay out there and cut down on travel. 

"Yeah, looking at the schedule, one of the proposals was to try to stay out on the West Coast twice, or for two games," he said. "So we'll see next month when it comes out if we get it."

Oh yeah ... Mixon 
It didn't take long in the media session to get back to the word scribbled in that reporter's notebook. 

Joe Mixon, the Oklahoma running back, has been a hot topic around the NFL not just for his play on the field but because of a huge "red flag" that comes in the form of a video showing Mixon punching a woman and breaking her jaw. 

A team will draft Mixon in April and it will most likely be in a high round -- he's too talented to be completely written off. And, from a football standpoint, he would make sense for the Eagles. 

"As a player, I've watched him a little bit this offseason, and you know, talented player, very explosive," said Pederson, when asked to simply evaluate Mixon as a player. "He has good hands out of the backfield. You put him in there with a lot of these backs that are coming out. Dynamic, exciting back to watch."

But the evaluation of Mixon can't end there. A decision to bring in a player like Mixon would need to come from the top. In this case, it would have to be decided by owner Jeffrey Lurie, who was also asked for his thoughts this week (see story)

So how does Pederson weigh talent against character concerns? 

"It's a fine line. It's a fine line," he said. "And it's tough. It's tough, because again, you're looking for guys that can fit into your system, and you're always looking to add talent to your roster, but at the same time you have to make sure you're doing your homework on these players, again, whether it's free agency or the draft that they're the right fit for you."

Need for speed
The Eagles improved at the wideout position this offseason by signing Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith, but those contracts shouldn't stop the team from taking a receiver high in the draft if it wants. 

One of those guys is a pretty intriguing prospect: John Ross. Ross is the fastest player ever at the combine. He ran a 4.22 earlier this month and isn't just a speed guy. He's shifty and extremely talented. 

While Ross has some medical red flags, Pederson said he isn't concerned about Ross' injury history. It sure seems like the speedy Washington wideout could be a possibility at 14. 

"Well, a guy like that, he's dynamic, has good speed, elusive, quick, short-area quickness is the things you see on film with him and on tape," Pederson said. 

"He's a guy, I think, wherever he ends up, could potentially be a difference maker because of the speed and that elusive quickness with the ball in his hand."

Sorry, old school guys
It doesn't look like Pederson wants to use a roster spot on a fullback. 

While he came up in a traditional West Coast system that used the dying position, last year Pederson elected to use offensive and defensive linemen and tight ends in that lead blocker spot. 

That doesn't look like it's going to change in 2017. 

"The game has changed. If you're not adjusting to the times, those positions can sometimes be filled by other role players. That's something that we'll look at, that I'll look at. ... You're seeing the game a lot more in the shotgun, the backs are offset. Pistol formation. I might be leaning toward using that position a little bit more differently."

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